After 10 years of helping over 4,000 women kickstart their career's second innings, Saundarya Rajesh is being honoured by the president, finds Punita Maheshwari
Only one person can get into her cabin without asking permission. The five-year-old daughter of the her office watchman. "She meets me daily and tells her about her school and friends," Saundarya Rajesh smiles, as she begins to tell us why it is important for her to see women with bright careers. "Around 7,000 women are leaving their jobs as we speak. And only a few will come back after they get married or have a baby," she says with concern visible on her face.
And why she cares so much about the number of women quitting their jobs is a question she takes very personally. "Through college, I had been an outstanding student and was always someone who would put her career ahead of anything in life. But with marriage, my job and personal life became difficult to juggle," she recalls. "That's when I realised that the professional system does not have enough to help a woman get back into the work field," she says. After some years, when shegot a job to teach in an university, she started seeing her students go through the same problem. "I could see myself in them," she says.
The next step was to interrupt a well-established system and make space for women to get back into the workforce. So, in 2006, Dr Saundrya founded AVTAR, an organisation that carries extensive research on the work population of women in India and is a bridge between women and employers. In a span of 10 years, the organisation has gained the reputation of being the largest "second career" recruitment organisation.
The workshops target the subjects at two levels. At the corporate level, where the team explains the importance of women for sustainabilityand at the personal level, where workshops are conducted for groups of women to improve their professional skills. For those who want to reach the organisation directly, they provide an online portal where a simple profiling method helps women find employment. Like the two-way process, the benefits are also double. It enables organisations to have a flexible environment that has proven to increase their respective productivity rates. "I have lots of male professionals calling me up and asking if I can help them take a break and get back to their jobs after some months. I have only one reply, if you bring enough women into your organisation, you can sit back and relax
sometimes," she laughs.
This visionary entrepreneur still struggles with one major roadblock ? breaking through in tier-3 cities. "This year looks promising," she says. We agree!
Self-initiated enablers for women
Home based non-family care giver - A home based non-family care giver is a domestic support staff who is employed to assist the woman professional in areas such as child care, basic cleaning activities and 'top work' the activity leading up to the preparation of a meal. The domestic support staff also acts as the representative of the home in taking deliveries of packages, letters etc and being the anchor for all home-led activities.
Day Care Services - The ability of a woman to attend to her career requirement even while being a young mother is enhanced greatly by using day care services. Mothers typically use a day care during the ages when the child is between 1 year and 5 years.
Self-sponsored Skill building programs -These are programs which greatly help the woman to stay on track, more so after a break. Women who have taken a break of a minimum period of between 12-18 months require a re-orientation to revert to the workplace.
India, ranked 123rd in the female-male ratio by the World Economic Forum, also has 48% of its women aborting their careers mid way, 20% more than the global average. Almost 18 lakh of these women want to comeback and the other 2.8 crores Indian women who are currently working, also face multiple challenges while trying to remain employed, productive and contribute economically to our country.